Our History.

Leadership Lancaster has been training stewards of our community from diverse backgrounds for more than 35 years. Every day, our graduates are making a difference in Lancaster County.

Developing leaders since 1983.

The path to Leadership Lancaster’s inaugural class began in May of 1982 when the Junior League of Lancaster voted to begin a 2-year project on volunteerism. The goal of the League’s project was “to develop a project to stimulate the community to volunteer, develop a name bank for board placement and provide publicity to clarify the League’s image in the community.”

The Junior League’s approach to projects was to develop cooperative ventures that could be self-sustaining. The League looked to the Lancaster Chamber as its logical partner in Leadership Lancaster because the business community was key to developing new leaders. Chamber President Dick Blouse selected active Chamber volunteers to join members of the Junior League to serve on the project team, and the first meeting of the Leadership Lancaster project team was held in January of 1983. The goal of the project was simple, “To find and train people to work effectively as volunteers.”

The project team shaped the Leadership Lancaster program that remains today: 140 hours of class time meeting 12 times from September to May with an overview of public education, government, human services, public policy, the justice system, the arts, and economic development in Lancaster County.  Participants work on community action teams and learn leadership skills that also enhance performance in the workplace.

By May of 1983, the project team was formalized into the first Leadership Lancaster Board of Directors, led by John Synodinos, Chair.  A part-time executive director was hired to oversee the organization’s daily operations.  Recruitment for the first class included a letter sent to local businesses which sought help in identifying, nominating, and sponsoring candidates for the inaugural class. That inaugural Core Class began their journey in September of 1983, just 16 months from the time the Junior League began the project on voluntarism.

In 1989, the Leadership Lancaster organization had grown significantly, resulting in the hiring of a full-time executive director. Programming continues to grow and evolve with each group of participants. It has also changed with the times and with the understandings of the vital components of Lancaster and the needed competencies of leadership:

  • The Executive Orientation Series (now Executive Class) was launched in 1990 as a pilot program for Ford New Holland (now Case New Holland). A program to facilitate and encourage interaction among executives and their spouses who are new to Lancaster County, the Executive Class now boasts over 30 graduating classes with over 500 alumni.
  • In 1997, the Senior Volunteer Series was started in collaboration with Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) of the American Red Cross. After four years and 120 graduates the program was incorporated into the work of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) with the American Red Cross.
  • Leadership Advantage, a one day training for nonprofit staff and volunteers debuted in 2004. With training customizable to meet the needs of individuals and organizations, Leadership Lancaster considers this event a giveback to the community.
    2008 saw the creation and rollout of the Board Leadership Academy, resulting in hundreds of board members receiving training on governance. The program has since evolved to include onsite training for full boards of directors.
  • The College Core Class launched in 2017 through a partnership with Franklin & Marshall and has since expanded to Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.
  • Finally, in 2020 Leadership Lancaster embarked on a partnership with the City of Lancaster called the Neighborhood Leaders Academy, training community leaders and later students at JP McCaskey.

Today, the success of Leadership Lancaster is evident in the 3,000+ graduates and the over 125 community leaders volunteer each year as faculty and facilitators for the class sessions. This has resulted in connected, educated, and inspired alumni who are serving their community in countless ways. At least half of graduates have maintained or increased their volunteer hours since graduation.

Lancaster owes its gratitude to the insightful leadership of the Junior League of Lancaster and the Lancaster Chamber. Their initiative has resulted in a strong and impactful organization that continues to carry out its mission in a way that benefits all residents of Lancaster County.

Former Chairs of the board of Leadership Lancaster:

  • John Synodinos:  1983 – 1983
  • Thomas DePaul:  1984 – 1986
  • Susan Eckert:  1986 – 1988
  • Anne McGrann:  1988 – 1990
  • Gary Reighard:  1990 – 1992
  • Edward Hoover:  1992 – 1994
  • Theodora Chairsell: 1994 – 1995
  • Kathlyn McElliott:  1995 – 1996
  • Lawrence Keating:  1996 – 1997
  • Sarah Thibault:  1997 – 1998
  • Sharron Nelson:  1998 – 1999
  • John Saeger:  1999 – 2000
  • William Belden:  2000 – 2002
  • Kim Ronald Smith:  2002 – 2004
  • Eric Bergstrom:  2004 – 2005
  • Roger North:  2005 – 2007
  • Gerald Huesken:  2007 – 2009
  • Richard Conley:  2009 – 2011
  • Kimberly Shirker: 2011 – 2013
  • Mark Lovett:  2013 – 2015
  • Martin Hudacs:  2015 –2017
  • Willonda McCloud: 2017-2019
  • Ryan Neumyer: 2019-2021
  • Mark Heath: 2021-

Meet our staff, faculty, and board members.

We’re proud to have a team of leaders and educators who love Lancaster.